After nearly two years of virtual project meetings and collaborations, where we all became very familiar with each other from the shoulders upwards (or sometimes just foreheads), our Ghanian, Kenyan and UK teams finally came together in Accra on the 12th September for a week long project meeting!
Led by Prof. Jim Wright, our week kicked off with team members presenting updates on their current project work. From Kenya, Dr. Lorna Grace Okotto and Joseph Okotto-Okotto provided an overview of findings from the project’s environmental transect surveys and the impacts of delegated management on water quality in Kisumu, Kenya. Whilst Dr. Farouk Umar, Dr. Mair Thomas, Prof. Allan Hill and Dr. Pete Shaw from Southampton touched on their work using Google Street View to estimate waste, quantifying nappy waste using household expenditure surveys and surveys with mother’s/carers, and the successes in developing a low-cost method to ID different types of plastic. Our Ghanian team, including Prof. Mawuli Dzodzomenyo and Moses Asamoah who presented on behalf of the wider research team based in Accra, provided an update on fieldwork being undertaken with waste collectors and plans for a pilot evaluation of a community education intervention.
Exciting discussions were had following each presentation, where lessons learnt from the field were shared and ideas brainstormed for advancing ongoing work. Group activities followed, with a particular emphasis given to maximising the projects impact, making the most of our data and exploring outstanding and forthcoming publications – with the latter being incredibly fruitful and resulting in a publication list that will keep us going until (at least) 2050!!
Mid-week we had the pleasure of learning from guest-speaker Eli Daniel-Wilson, of Pulse, an innovative media company based in Accra, on the value of social media campaigns for research impact. Needless to say we learnt (a lot) about what we could do moving forward to improve our online presence and engage with the local community to have a greater impact with Water and Waste’s research and findings!
In and amongst the more formal sessions and discussions, the week included several field visits including to Odawna River and Korle Lagoon. This was a highlight for the Southampton team in particular, who had yet to see first-hand the severity of the waste issue faced in informal urban areas of Accra. Whilst a slight shock to the system, the visits to enumeration areas really brought home the necessity for the projects work in highlighting the degree of the problem faced and the need for informed solutions. A trip to Spaceplast Recycling Company highlighted the innovative ways local commerce is pulling together to tackle plastic waste, whilst providing vital employment for local communities; leaving food for thought on the ways the waste problem faced is helping tackle other development issues.
By the end of the week the Water and Waste team were buzzing with new ideas and enthusiasm for the projects future, whilst feeling fortunate to have had the opportunity to share and learn from one another in person! A huge thank you to our fantastic Ghanaian hosts, especially chief-organiser Josephine Amoah, who looked after us generously and made sure to give us the true Ghanian experience, complete with culinary delights including Red red, Fufu, Jollot and Kenkey, which all eagerly encouraged to try!